It should come as no surprise that we are battling for not only the soul of this nation, but our very existence. Since the beginning of our colonial history, the Framers of the Constitution fought to avoid the political and social divisions that ripped England apart in their bloody civil wars. It was a tenuous time as they desperately tried to start our new nation on solid ground. Less than 100 years later, that ground was shattered and bloody from our own civil war. And I'm not sure we ever fully recovered, politically or socially, from those fractures. But somehow the fabric of the nation held, we bound up our wounds, and have managed to survive through two world wars, and multiple foreign wars [all of which made international bankers and champions of the war machines wealthy], at the cost of millions of lives.
So, here we are, nearly two-and-a-half centuries later, and our survival as a nation seems to be just as tenuous. Actually, the world, itself, seems to be on the verge of destruction! I mean, how many people in the world sense that unprecedented Evil is about to come upon the peoples of this planet? Both Christians and nonbelievers have a heightened awareness that there is danger and darkness in the offing; and how many of you have heard the warnings and prophecies forecasting that 2025 is the culmination of the final age of man? I've heard everything from world-wide economic collapse, to serious natural disasters, and of course, the beginning of WWIII... all guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of men and women.
How could it not? There doesn't seem to be much good news to look forward to, right? But we have a choice in how we will confront the possibilities. Will we allow a spirit of fear to render us silent and cowering in a corner; submitting to the forces of evil who wish to eradicate us? Or we will we approach the uncertain and scary future with fortitude; with courage, resilience, moral fiber, strength of mind and character, and steadfast spirit? Those choices couldn't be further apart, but are most likely what it will come down to for each individual. There is no middle ground.
And there is no middle ground in this spiritual war between the God we serve and the Enemy of all mankind. Because of how much evil is being brought against God's creation, His anger is mounting and I believe His cup of wrath will soon be filled to the brim. And the Lord's sheep are sensing it and becoming full of worry and apprehension. How are we to prepare for what's coming? What should we be expecting from ourselves? We all hope we will face the future with confidence in the Lord, and with the courage and fortitude of Christ. And since we look to Him as our model in all human circumstances, let us consider how He responded in His hour of fear and uncertainty...
Could anything we face compare to the anxiety and dread that our Lord must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane? If I may paraphrase one of my favorite Bible commentators, Matthew Henry, "Jesus had an awful sense of the wrath of God, of the weight of sin. His human nature was ready to sink under that heavy load, and would have sunk, had He been forsaken of help and comfort from God; but He was heard in His prayers, He was supported through the agonies of death."
This understanding, along with the example Jesus gives us on how to approach God in our times of distress and agony of soul, is something that I wish us all to embrace. Yes, we have examples of Jesus praying throughout the gospels, including His rising early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35), praying all night (Luke 6:12), and praying while fasting 40 days (Matthew 4:2). In fact, the disciples saw how important prayer was to Jesus and asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1).
But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus's prayer was not casual or routine; it was intense and passionate. Let's look at what is involved in His prayers during this time of apprehension and foreboding. The most common component of many of our prayers is tears, which Jesus also exhibited during His time of intense prayer. Tears are often a sign of pain in our soul. Jesus had a heart full of compassion for His creation and could feel in His heart the sickness, suffering, and coming death of mankind. Our "lostness" pained His heart. Our pain was His pain. He wept for us as He prayed.
Notice also that He prayed with great shouting. Have you ever shouted out loud to God during your most private conversations with Him? Shouting is often a sign of resistance. In times of spiritual warfare -- and believe me, there was a war going on in the spiritual realm as Jesus faced His crucifixion -- we all face the forces of sin and Satan. While shouting and praying, Jesus was fighting in the spiritual realm against the moral darkness of the world. He was opposing evil and overcame it. In His fervent prayer, He was fighting energetically [and vehemently] on our behalf. And I believe He is doing the same today -- and boy, do we need it!
The political and spiritual forces have aligned to try to strike fear in our hearts and render us silent, powerless, and impotent. For a Biblical example, we only have to look back at the Biblical story of Joshua and Caleb, who were part of the contingent of 12 spies sent into the Promised Land to determine if it could be conquered. But ten of the spies came back and reported that they were defeated before they ever began. They were filled with fear and let that fear completely vanquish them. But it was Caleb who said, "But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God".
Caleb was free from fear, and he used his trust in God to try to help the people of Israel overcome their fears. And those of us who are like Caleb, and surrender to the will of God, have something to say to people who are afraid. Our surrender to God is the only answer to the problem of fear. It doesn't mean we ignore the facts, or we stick our head in the sand, and pretend that there will be no difficulties; we cannot and should not persuade others to escape reality. That is a disservice to others. But all people would be well-served to remember Caleb's words. He didn't deny the giants existed, or that it wouldn't be difficult to overcome them. Instead, he said, "We are well able". This does not mean that he had confidence only in himself. Nor did he put undue emphasis on the military strength of Israel, either. No. He was emphasizing where their power really came from. It came from firm confidence in God’s power.
We are well able! We are able to overcome our differences and work together for the good of the country and the world -- if we are willing to follow the One who offers us hope. We are well able to join forces with the Heavenly Host to battle the Enemy's demonic partners who seek to destroy us physically, spiritually, and socially. We are well able to survive whatever is coming -- our ancestors made it through the Depression; the Jews overcame the Holocaust, and survived the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. Millions of people throughout the ages have suffered in genocides, plagues, slavery, and totalitarianism. None of it was pretty or easy. In fact, it was diabolical.
The truth is, none of us know what the future holds for us, and I'm sure many of us are consumed with fear over the possibilities. I also know that most of you are joining me in solemn and dedicated prayer, asking God for mercy and forgiveness in His coming judgment (that we so thoroughly deserve). Let us strive for an attitude of fortitude -- the same kind of courage Jesus showed in His adversity on the eve of His most frightening and devastating experience. It's OK to cry out to the Lord and shout to Heaven in our moments of agony, fright, and doubt. But if we approach our Father with godly fear and reverence, He will hear us and will provide the means for us to be carried through whatever awaits us. I truly believe that!
Just as Matthew Henry wrote, I am convinced that, like Jesus, we will not be forsaken in our moment of need. We will be helped and comforted by God, who will hear our prayers, and we will be supported, even unto death. We must follow Christ's example, devoting ourselves to Him, denying ourselves (and our natural human fears); and take up our cross, follow Him unto death, [if it is God's will], proclaiming our victory over Evil. Praise the Lord for the standard He has set before us! Praise Him for His fortitude, and for showing us that God's mercy is sufficient, and enough to see us through anything the Enemy can bring against us. God will bring order out of this chaos! He's done it before and His Word says He will do it again. Please pray that mankind rejects the lies and temptations of the Evil One before we've gone too far. The Man of Lawlessness is ready to take the stage, but God, in His Sovereignty, will determine the time of His appearance.
Father, we pray for Your protection from the shaking that we deserve! Destroy the plans of everyone whose heart is aligned with the Enemy, and may Your Holy Spirit guide us away from a spirit of fear. You are our Hope and Strength and Refuge! Fill us with the Godly fortitude of Jesus!
Jeremiah 10:10 But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.
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